The houbara spends most of its time on the ground foraging for food. It is omnivorous and opportunistic, its diet consisting of plants, seeds, insects, spiders, small rodents and lizards. Adaptation to its arid habitat enables it to obtain enough of its hydration from food and it seldom needs to drink water.

Houbara mostly feed at sunrise or dusk. Adult birds are mainly solitary but may forage in small groups depending on the period of the year.

The houbara bustard can survive extremes in climate: from nearly 50 °C in the summer in Arabia and the Sahara, to sub-zero temperatures in Central Asia in autumn before migration.

The male houbara performs extravagant displays of mating behaviour on a site he uses year after year, fluffing out the neck feathers and throwing his head back so that he becomes almost hidden inside a large ruff of black and white while he struts swiftly in a straight line or circle.

The female visits a display site only to mate, and then leaves to another area where she will lay her eggs. She makes a shallow hollow, a ‘scrape’, in the open ground where she usually lays three or four eggs (this can vary from one to six). The male takes part neither in egg incubation, which lasts 23 days, nor in rearing and defending the young. His only contribution to the breeding process is to mate with the female.